Casus Bella: 50 – The Only Crime Here

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Allison Heck stopped by Wednesday night before I went to bed.

I didn’t have to be on the Detective Career Track to see she wasn’t pregnant any longer.

“You had your baby!” I said. “Or babies! What did you have!”

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“Well, I know I didn’t have twins because there are already seven Sims in the household, but I have no idea beyond that,” Allison said. “I was kind of hoping you would come over on your day off so we can see.”

“Well that settles it,” I said. “I made Officer today and am scheduled to work through Sunday, but I’m just going to take all my vacation days and Aunt Debbie the heck outta that kid!”

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“What are you talking about?” Allison asked. “I thought you wanted to play detective!”

“It’s not … It’s hard to explain,” I said. “The Detective Career Track isn’t what I thought it would be. I’ve made enemies with the receptionist, got beat up by some otherwise cute guy, an algorithm can do my job better than I can –“

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“Oh, I’m sure –“

“I’m not finished: I’m having wild Moodlet swings, and every time I go to work, the game generates more Townies! The population is at 203 now! If I keep going to work, we’ll break through the population cap by weekend!”

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“Don’t you worry about that, Debbie! We’ll deal with the population cap,” Allison said, not explaining who “we” was. “You’ve come this far; you’re not quitting until you’ve solved at least one case.”

“But sometimes I think the only crime here is how poorly the active careers are integrated into the broader game,” I said.

“One case,” Allison repeated.

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So, it was with some reservation that I returned to the station Thursday morning. As I raced for a workstation before all the computers were taken, I noticed with a mix of relief and foreboding that Macie the Evil Receptionist was not there, and a new receptionist had taken her place.

“Well, hello,” I said. “Let me welcome you to your fir –“

“Stand back, Officer Van High!” she interrupted. “I know all about you and your joy-buzzer trick.”

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“My joy-buzzer trick?” I said, feeling even forebode-ier. “What did Macie tell you?”

“Nothing! I never met her,” the new receptionist said, “but she had a lot to say to the chief, right after she filed a workplace injury compensation claim and a workplace harassment complaint. Uh … I guess your name came up a few times.”

“Well,” I said defensively. “She’s Evil, you know.”

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“That’s it!” the new receptionist said. “She said you were Trait-shaming her and assaulted her in the crime lab! Yeah, uh … the chief told me to send you an invite to a mandatory meeting in her office. I guess you better check your e-mail?”

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“Yeah, I guess I’d better,” I said, unhappily realizing that the only open desk was right in front of the chief’s office.

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I sat down and was about to check my e-mail for the chief’s mandatory invitation, when I noticed I had a chance to take a case of my own.

I didn’t even look at my Inbox.

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Instead, I took the case, then jumped up and went over to the Crime Map to start my first, uh … Crime Map thingy.

I soon realized we already had lot to go on, and I recognized a lot of the clues.

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Here was the witness statement I’d taken from Hugo Villareal, along with photos of graffiti I’d taken for Detective Dylan Blain at the Windenberg discothèque.

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I dashed back to my desk and pulled up the police database. Blain had dumped that case into the Unsolved bin without even analyzing half the evidence I’d produced for her.

And now the culprit had struck again.

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This time, the guerilla artist had repeatedly tagged the Willow Brook Archives. I gathered samples and photographed some evidence outside before heading in to get statements from the witnesses …

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… and found that the crime was more serious this time. Not only had the perpetrator tagged the floors of the library, he or she had also crashed all the computers inside.

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This time, I interviewed more than one witness, and a clearer picture of the perpetrator began to emerge. I would need to analyze some of the evidence, cross-reference some against the police database, but by case progress meter indicated I almost had enough information to start questioning suspects.

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The Hunger Meter boost I’d gained from my morning yogurt was fading fast and I was unlikely to get a doughnut break with all the evidence to gather and analyze.

I pulled one of the lemons I’d harvested on my day off from my pocket as I pondered the evidence, the impact of this crime, and the possible motives.

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What could possess a Sim not only to deface community lots, but also crash public computers?

Amid the mathematical formulae, abstract squiggles and doohickies spray-painted on the floor at my feet was one clearly symbolic thingamajig, a stick-figure cat in bright orange paint. Was this some protest over the lack of pets in The Sims 4?

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At first I was appalled by the damage to the library computers, but as I munched my lemon, I wondered.

The crime scene would be cleaned up as soon as I leave. Computers, appliances and plumbing on community lots often break down over a long day in play, but they are always repaired automagically the next time anyone visits.

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So we have a crime without victims, a crime that would not even have taken place if I wasn’t playing detective.

A victimless, made-up crime for which someone was going to have to pay.

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Maybe I shouldn’t even be thinking these things, I thought as I moved upstairs to gather more evidence, maybe I should just enjoy the ride and not worry about the consequences, or lack thereof.

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I stepped out onto the balcony to clear my head, and looked at the inaccessible buildings across the street, buildings that weren’t really there. Just the walls of a shrinking sandbox, rendered in 3-D.

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“This isn’t helping,” I thought.

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